Analysis: ROBBIE MUSAKUZI
THE report in the Zambia Daily Mail of Wednesday, November 15, 2017 that the Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA) has started the process of forming Water Users Associations (WAU) in Southern Province to manage water resources and development on behalf of the Zambian Government is indeed good news which should be commended and the authority should be encouraged to quickly scale-up the exercise to other parts of the country, especially those which are in the higher rainfall areas and have more water resources.
WARMA has taken too long to become operational and to begin achieving its mandate and objective for which it was established in 2012 by the Water Resources Management (WRM) Act No. 21 of 2011 which is to promote and adopt a dynamic, gender-sensitive, integrated, interactive, participatory and multi-sectoral approach to water resources management and development that includes human, land, environmental and socio-economic considerations, especially poverty reduction and the elimination of water borne diseases, including malaria.
The vision of the PF government in 2012 when WARMA was established was that it would quickly turn around and upgrade to international standards the way water resources are currently managed and regulated in the country. Anyone who has been to any of the developed countries in the West and now also in the eastern parts of the world is that you get amazed at how water sources are managed and how the water front of rivers and lakes in towns and cities have become international tourist attractions because of the creation of Water Users Associations (WUA). For instance, your trip abroad feels incomplete if you did not visit the river front of the Thames River in London, Douro River in Porto, Portugal, Danube River in Budapest, Hungary, Mississippi River in New Orleans or Hudson River in New York, USA, Garonne River in Bordeaux or Seine River in Paris, France, Rhine River in Mainz or Main River in Frankfurt, Germany, ST Lawrence River in Quebec City, Canada, just to mention a few.
The towns and cities in Zambia are also endowed with rivers and lakes because of the undulating physical geography of our country but look at the state of the river front of Kafubu River in Ndola right in the middle of the city, Kafue River in Kitwe and many others around the country. The water sources and river fronts in towns and cities in Zambia are an eyesore and a source of water-borne diseases, dumping sites and breeding grounds of malaria parasite carrying mosquitoes. Water utility companies are struggling to supply water to the Zambian people because of the poor management of the water sources. If WARMA operates as mandated to managing and regulating the use of Zambia’s water resources in an integrated, participatory and sustainable manner based on human, land, environmental and socio-economic considerations things can change for the better in the country.
The Zambian government and people’s desire is that WARMA should scale-up its management and approach to regulating the use of water in Zambia to international best practices of integrated water resources management (IWRM) in line with the country’s national development agenda of turning our country into a prosperous middle-income country by 2030. This will only be possible if the officers at WARMA look at the bigger picture and perform their functions diligently which include enforcing and implementing the WRM Act, coordinating and monitoring the activities of catchment councils, sub-catchment councils and creating more Water User Associations under the Act.
In the SADC region, Zambia is blessed with over 75 percent of the water resources but it is at the bottom of the integrated water resources management (IWRM) scale in the region because of our national attitude to water resource management. For instance, when it comes to the number of man-made water reservoirs, the country has the lowest number of water reservoirs in the sub region. Statistically, Zambia has less than five major man-made dam reservoirs, Malawi, a country eight times smaller than Zambia by land surface, has 10, Zimbabwe two times smaller than Zambia by land surface has 12, Namibia has 11, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has over 15, Botswana has over 10, and South Africa has over a 100 major man-made dams.
The WARMA Board which was established in April 2013 and it’s Director General and first permanent staff appointed thereafter must create contacts and synergies to create interaction and co-operation with similar organisations in the SADC sub-region which are well ahead of Zambia in integrated water resources management in order to produce a combined effect which will also play an important role in mitigating the effects of global climate change in Zambia. In this era of Global Climate Change integrated water resources management will become a very important factor in social and economic development of the country because as they say ‘water is life’ and therefore the domestic and commercial utilisation of water will become very critical in national development plans and prevention of water relate disasters.
The author is an International Associate with African Centre for Disaster Studies.